All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago

Cultivate Joy

Homily, July 3, 2016, Proper 9
Andy Guffey

Isaiah 66:10-14 Psalm 66:1-8 Galatians 6:7-16 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

As I was reading the texts for this week, what stuck out to me was joy. Isaiah says, "Rejoice with Jerusalem." The Psalm says to shout with joy. Which is sort of appropriate for the Fourth of July weekend. Happy Independence Day weekend, by the way! I don't know about for you, but for me, the Fourth of July weekend was always a fun weekend. When I was a kid, I celebrated the independence of this nation by stuffing my face with hotdogs and cake, and by feeding my inner pyromaniac—lots of little things that go boom! Wheee! The only memorial of those celebrations were sugar crashes, sun burns, and scorched earth. You know, fun. The idea, of course is that we were celebrating our country and its freedoms.

One might get the impression that the reading from Isaiah is also about patriotism: "Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her—that you may nurse and be satisfied from her consoling breast, that you may drink deeply with delight from her glorious bosom." I won't even go into the Freudian turns and twists of this passage. But certainly, the patriotic language is not foreign to our ears. It doesn't sound so different from "God Bless America!" "My Country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing!" But that's not what the author of Isaiah 66 was doing. Maybe you noticed that I left a little line out: "Rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her." By the time our author is writing these lines, Jerusalem is in ruins, crushed by the Babylonians. In the midst of mourning, the author of these lines does not give in to despair, but rather cultivates joy. In response to utter tragedy, the author of this passage says to rejoice.

In Jewish tradition, it is expected that one cultivates joy on the Sabbath and on certain other festivals. As one author puts it: "The Sabbath is no time for personal anxiety or care, for any activity that might dampen the spirit of joy. ...[T]he Sabbath was given to us by God for joy, for delight, for rest, and should not be marred by worry or grief" (A. J. Heschel, Sabbath, 30).

The Desert Fathers of Christian tradition—those austere, holy persons of the early years of Christianity, some of whom only ate raw vegetables or prescribed for themselves other harsh ascetic practices—no hotdogs and DEFINITELY no cake for them—the Desert Fathers also recognized the importance of cultivating joy. There is a story about a certain Father Apollo, who lived in the Egyptian desert. His disciples apparently only ate one meal a day, after Eucharist. I would think they'd be pretty miserable! If it were me, I think I'd be hangry most of the time. But, the story goes right on to say, "Nevertheless, one could see them in the desert filled with a joy and a bodily contentment such as one cannot see anywhere else. For nobody was gloomy or downcast." And if anyone did seem a bit glum, Father Apollo would counsel them, until the root of the joylessness was discovered.

Both in Jewish tradition and in our Christian tradition, cultivating joy has been part of who we are and what we do. Because fundamentally, cultivating joy is about desiring God, trusting in God, hoping in God. Enjoying God. That's why today's Psalm says: "Be joyful in God all you lands!"

But, as another Psalm says, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?" Right now—and very often—there does not seem to be much to rejoice in—there's Orlando, of course, but also now the murder of hostages in Bangladesh, a bombing in Istanbul, a perplexing Brexit, and that's not even to mention the dubious fate of Chicago Public Schools, nor to mention the daily rise of gun violence in this city. Sometimes it seems we don't have time for joy; there's work to do. Or even worse, it just doesn't seem appropriate to find cause for joy. We feel that we are not free to rejoice. But that is precisely why we need to cultivate joy, to seek it out, to find the freedom to be joyful.

As most of you probably know, Elie Wiesel died yesterday. Most of you are probably familiar with Wiesel's work. A survivor of the Shoah, the Holocaust, author of several books, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. You probably are familiar with his autobiographical story of the Holocaust, Night. Wiesel was determined for the rest of his life that he would never allow the world to forget. As he constantly said, he lived to bear witness. "I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." Wiesel was not a perfect spokesman for these words, but he knew the horrors of the world, and our responsibility to confront them.

One might easily get the impression that Wiesel was a man with little time for joy. He was a serious man, to be sure. But he also was devoted to the Hasidic way of Judaism. And one of the hallmarks of Hasidic Judaism is joy. I was listening to one of his lectures yesterday, and he told a story, as he is wont to do. It goes like this: A Hasid came to a rabbi, and he said, "Rabbi, I feel crushed, so terrible is my anguish. I have so many obligations, so many mouths to feed, so many deaths to mourn. I cannot bear it any more. The old Rabbi took his hand and asked, "Do you want me to weep for you? To mix my tears with yours? Is that what you want?" "Yes," whispered Hasid. "At least, it will make me feel better. I will know that you at least understand me, that you share in my suffering. Weep for me, then. Weep with me, and I will thank you. I will thank you with all my heart. But the Rabbi looked at him for a long moment, and shook his head, No. That's not what we must do. Weeping is no solution. Instead, I shall sing. And you shall sing with me. I know it's not easy, and why should it be? But we shall sing nevertheless. As Wiesel says, there was no good reason in the world for them to feel better, but they did.

Cultivating joy is contagious, and it doesn't just happen when we feel like it. We need each other. To remind each other of the source of our joy—which is not the same as mere happiness. Sometimes, our yearning for God, for justice, for peace, flows from the crucifixion, from pain and oppression, and we cry out, "How long, O Lord?!" But cultivating joy reminds us of the joy and hope of resurrection. God is making all things new, if we will only let ourselves see it. If we will only sing together. The crucifixion and the resurrection go hand-in-hand. No resurrection without the indelible memory of catastrophe; no crucifixion without the hope and joy of new life, without the recognition of beauty in the world and all around us.

In the wake of Orlando, a number of folks posted pictures of people coming together. Of Orthodox Jews visiting a gay night club in a show of solidarity and compassion, of Muslims holding vigil at Pulse. Communities coming together to grieve together at the Stonewall, and in Boystown. One of my Canterbury Northwestern students was in NYC, and he went to the Stonewall, where he took a picture of the crowd that had gathered, embracing each other and showing each other grace. The caption on the picture said, "Love wins. Love will always win." Cultivating joy.

Whenever we perceive, if only out of the corner of our eye, the beauty of the world, in our children's voices, in sunlight-bathed flowers, in an absolutely gorgeous Fourth of July weekend, and whatever it is that gives us delight—we cultivate joy. And we should be witnesses of that joy, giving thanks for it as often as we can. As Wiesel once said, "If the only prayer you say throughout your life is 'Thank you,' that will be enough." Because in those simple words, the free love of God who is absolutely free of anger toward all creation, wells up, surprising us with the freedom to find our joy, too.


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Weekly Message for December 17

Weekly Message for December 17

Dear Friends,    

Tomorrow is our long awaited and much anticipated #HamiltonMeetsJesus Christmas pageant. As I write this note, I remember Fonzi and the writers’ of that beloved 70s TV show, Happy Days, and conclude that this year’s pageant may truly have "jumped the shark." That said, our young people have spent an inordinate amount of time working on this year’s production. Tomorrow you will see that the camel and sheep legislators are busy amending the celestial republic’s founding documents, the shepherds are trying to figure out their new tax bills, the innkeeper offers Joseph some sage advice, “Smile more, talk less,” Mary is adjusting to a new donkey, the archangels have an opening rap that really puts some flesh on the notion of the virgin birth, and King Herod is quite sure that the immigrant Wise Men will be back. All of which is to say, it’s pretty much business as usual for the All Saints’ Christmas Pageant which will be premiering at the 9 and 11 o’clock worship services. 

In the midst of the Hamilton hoopla one truth I hope to offer to all of us is that God, in the infant Jesus, came into this world to show each of us the unending power of love. While Alexander Hamilton and the founding parents of our republic took a step toward liberty and justice, I invite you to remember and hold dear that the real revolution, the true up-ending of our world, comes not through government policy, but through our ability to live our lives in such a way that the love of God is made real in all we do. Please let that revolution begin.

To avoid donkeys, camels, and chaos, attend the 8:00 service and then return for the absolutely amazing Advent and Christmas Lessons and Carols that our choir will be offering at 4:30 tomorrow afternoon. To end a long day at 5:30 we’ll all journey to the back room of O’Shaughnessy’s Pub for Beer and Caroling! At noon—we’ll be serving a light lunch and transforming our sanctuary from Advent austerity to Christmas greenery. Please come and join in any or all the activities that may feed your soul in this season of expectation and birth. 

All my very best to you on this my MOST FAVORITE WEEKEND of the year,


Working Against the Virus of Racism

Working Against the Virus of Racism

kellybdWe are very excited that the Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas will be spending a weekend with us this fall, September 23 and 24. Kelly was formerly the Canon Theologian at our National Cathedral. In the fall she will become the first Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School, now located at Union Theological Seminary. We've invited Kelly to spend the weekend with us so that we might again return to our work on confronting racism. Kelly is an amazing preacher and theologian and we are beyond honored that she is making time in her incredibly busy schedule to be with us. Look for more details in the next few weeks on the spirituality and theology that we will be exploring together. 

In the event that you find yourself looking for some interesting summer reading, here are some books she has suggested we investigate: HomecomingThe Color of Law, and one by Kelly called Stand Your Ground. She also suggested that watching 13th on Netflix would be helpful.

Racism is an issue that we are called to confront and challenge and end. It is not something that will just die a gentle death. Our hope is that with our time with Kelly and one another, we may again return to this important work. 

All Saints' Book Club

All Saints' Book Club

midnightFall Reading List Selected

The All Saints Book Club has defined its reading list through the fall. The meetings start at 7:30 PM usually at the home of a member. The locations and further details are on our Facebook page. Here is the schedule for the next several months:

  • August 10 - "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" by John Berendt
  • September 14 - "Operation Breadbasket" by Martin Deppe (meet in the Reading Room at the church)
  • October 12 - "Saints and Villains" by Denise Giardina
  • November 9 - "The Haunting of Hill House" by Shirley Jackson
  • December 14 - Pick your own poetry book and share favorite poem(s)

For additional information, contact Mike Burke (

Bags for RCS

Bags for RCS

We're running low on paper and reusable bags for our Tuesday night pantry. Please bring us your extras! 
We will be taking donations on Tuesday evenings, M-F 9am-4pm, and on Sundays during church services. Look for the bins by the doors. Thanks for your help!

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

Evening Prayer at The Breakers

 Sundays at 2pm

breakersbibleWe are very excited to announce that every Sunday at 2:00 pm, All Saints' offers something new at the Breakers - An Evening Prayer Service! Our first event was Sunday, December 4th, and went marvelously well - we had 13 attendees! Folks are very pleased that there's a Protestant service being offered in addition to the current choices (which are Catholic and Moody Bible.) The Prayer Service itself is printed in large print and in bulletin style with scripture taken each week from the Common Lectionary.

The weekly service starts at 2:00 pm, upstairs on the second floor Meditation Room, and lasts about 15 minutes. Please contact Paul Mallatt if you have questions, or comments at 773-860-4649. When you can, stop by the Breakers (5333 N Sheridan Rd) where the parking is free (for 2 hours), the coffee is hot, and the folks are friendly!


Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

Tuesdays 6:15-8:00pm 

RCS is looking for help serving and cleaning up after dinner on Tuesdays from 6:15-8:00pm.

If you're able to volunteer, contact Emily or Operations Manager Parker Callahan, or call 773-769-0282.

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

New Opportunity: Hospitality Ministry

helloDo you feel called to create an open, welcoming, hospitable environment at All Saints? Do you like meeting and connecting with people? Join the new Hospitality Ministry! Members of the Hospitality Ministry will help the clergy and vestry create a welcoming culture by greeting new members, engaging new faces at coffee hour, and helping connect new members of All Saints with our various programs.

Interested? Contact Diane Doran or Michelle Mayes. Include "Hospitality Ministry" in the subject line.

Join Our Member Directory!

Join Our Member Directory!

Our new Associate Rector, Emily Williams Guffey, is enjoying getting to know everyone in our congregation. Help her put names and faces together by adding yourself to our online directory!

If you are a member of All Saints' and haven't already registered for the directory, please contact our resident web guru Jim Crandall at and he will send a user name, password, and instructions.

Love on a Plate

Love on a Plate

Join the All Saints' Care Ministry! 

casseroleThe Care Ministry at All Saints' is a quiet one, simply providing meals after a new baby arrives, after surgery, during an illness. Because when life gets complicated, dinner is often the last thing on our minds--but sometimes a meal and visit from a friend is exactly what we need!

If you can provide a meal, give someone a ride, or run an errand once in awhile, please email You'll be contacted when a need arises and you can sign up to help at your convenience.


Donate to The 1883 Project

Donate to The 1883 Project

Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

1883 Construction web 

This OLD Church

This OLD Church

This week’s stories of the bell tower: The beams and posts in the bell tower are being filled with epoxy and fungicide to prevent future insect damage and to restore their strength and integrity. Here are some photos of the work currently taking place. Everywhere you see white is where the post or beam is being rebuilt, restored and protected.
The blue hue in the photo is from the tarp surrounding the bell tower enabling Ron Young and his crew to continue working in the dropping temperatures.
Fixing This Old Church

Fixing This Old Church

Here is a collection of photos of the progress of our 1883 Project. Here is a collection of bell tower photos. Check back often for updates.

Sunday Service Times

8:00 am Inclusive Language Eucharist
9:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir
10:00 am Children's Church School
10:00 am Coffee Hour
11:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir


Contact Us

4550 N. Hermitage in Chicago, IL 60640 (Directions)

Phone (773) 561-0111


Information about pastoral care.



Bonnie on Huffington Post

Occasionally Bonnie's sermons are published on the Huffington Post. Here are some links.

Pain. Change. Hope.

November 15, 2015

What Does St. Francis of Assisi Have to Say to Us Today?

October 4, 2015

Wake Up Calls

September 6, 2015

Christmas Reminds Us That We, Like God, Are Human, Too

December 24, 2014

The Deep Sleep of Racial Oblivion: One Pastor's Sin of Omission

November 30, 2014

Pulpit Swap

The Pulpit Swap between St Thomas and All Saints is part of our ongoing effort to bring our parishes closer together as we engage in a conversation about systemic racism and how we can work together to forge new possibilities and outcomes.

Going Home—Changed

Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Bonnie Perry of All Saints Episcopal Church on October 16, 2016.  

When Prayers Go Unanswered

Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Dr Fulton L Porter celebrating at All Saints Episcopal Church on Oct16 2016.